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Breeding Poison Dart Frogs

Breeding Poison Dart Frogs:

Starting the process of breeding most dart frogs such as dendrobates tinctorius and its various morphs should begin with a male and female a year old or older. Avoid having more than one mature female to avoid fighting. Some ranitomeya and oophaga pumilios can have a small breeding group. Males of breeding age will call signaling their willingness to breed. Tinctorius though have a low pitched call that is difficult to hear. Oophaga and Ranitomeya calls are very audible and can be heard from a good distance away.

Increase the amount of food at each feeding and frequency of water misting. Encouraging breeding towards the beginning of Spring is most ideal. Note that you will want to have a few months of breeding then discourage breeding to allow frogs to regain weight and energy spent during the breeding season. This can include removal of breeding sites even removal of a mate for a few months. Monthly provide supplemental vitamin A to help with egg development. For heavy egg layers vitamin A can be provided twice a month. Note supplements such as Repashy Calcium plus has vitamin A. You want to avoid excess vitamin A supplementation. Supplementation is the same as calcium supplementation, it’s a powder sprinkled on feeder insects that you then feed to your frogs.

Egg depositing sites:
For many frogs including tinctorius, leucomelas, auratus, phyllobates offer a egg depositing shelter such as a coconut hut with a petri dish base or other hides and Magnolia leaves or other smooth and glossy leaves.

For smaller frogs including oophaga and ranitomeya offer water carrying plants such as bromeliads or film cannisters deposited in the background, or suction cupped to the sides of the enclosure. (Note that oophaga frogs will need to care for tadpoles with no removal of eggs as most keepers will be unable to provide the nutritional needs of this species.)

Once you have a female deposit eggs you will want to wait several hours to even a full day to make sure that the male comes to fertilize the eggs. Fertilization for frogs is external from their bodies. This process is termed “amplexus”. Thus, after a female deposits eggs, the male depositing sperm on the eggs. Note that having multiple females in an enclosure runs the risk of a rival female destroying eggs. Also eggs left too long in a high traffic area does increase the risk of them being trampled.

Caring for eggs:
Many keepers remove eggs from a vivarium for species other than oophaga (egg feeders). Removal of eggs increases the rate of success in most cases as opposed to leaving eggs in a vivarium to be cared for by its parents.

Egg care Steps:
1) Remove the petri dish or other egg laying surface:
2) Rinse eggs lightly with a dropper to remove debris. We recommend rinsing using "tadpole tea" for egg "maintenance". (see below for how to make this tea). Egg maintenance includes the initial rinse and daily egg hydrating via misting with tadpole tea. If left in the vivarium each day parents would keep the eggs from drying out by "wetting" eggs via secretions. Likewise daily you want to lighting mist the eggs as well using tadpole tea that you add to a spray bottle. Note that eggs should not be covered with water as they will suffocate. They need exposure to the air for respiration.
3) Place eggs in a covered container such as a covered Sterilite type plastic shoe box or lidded aquarium. Place paper towels covering the bottom of the container. Wet the paper towels with tadpole tea. This will serve to keep a moist humid environment and help prevent eggs from drying out. Using the tea will help prevent mold growth or bacteria from fouling the eggs. Water:
Note that as dart frogs are indigenous to tropical rain forests they are accustom to "pure water". This water does not have chemicals or the impurities that our municipal waters have. Pure water for us as keepers includes RO (reverse osmosis filtered water) or distilled water. RO filters can be store bought, distilled can be boiled at home or bought in bottles in a store. Since this water is so pure it lacks the mineral content needed for the healthy development of tadpoles, we recommend adding minerals back into the water. Commercial products such as Equilibrium by SeaChem will restore water quality.

Tadpole tea
In a water bottle or other water storage container add purified water (reverse osmosis water aka "RO" or distilled water) and remineralized that water as indicated above. Then add Indian almond leaves to that water. The more leaves that you add the richer the tannin level will be. Commercial almond leaf extracts such as "Black water" can also be used when diluted appropriately. Tadpole tea has the benefit of acting as a natural antifungal and antibacterial agent. Many eggs left on their own may mold or have mold spread to them from an adjacent egg that wasn't fertilized and spoiled. Some people use diluted methylene blue as well as an antimicrobial agent in-lieu of Tadpole tea in the tadpole maintenance phase.

Tadpole development:
Over the course of several weeks to a month the eggs will develop into tadpoles. As this time approaches remove any eggs that fail to develop to prevent molding and contaminating healthy eggs. Add drops of tadpole tea around eggs that have a soon to hatch tadpole. Again, avoid covering eggs with water. Once eggs break free of their gelatinous egg they will move into the adjacent water. At this time, you may move tadpoles into individual 36ounce cups or a communal aquarium. Note that some species such as tinctorius are cannibalistic. Having a large aquarium and ample vegetation, and almond leaves will reduce the risk of loss due to cannibalism.

Tadpole containers:
Deli cups:
You can use a 36oz deli cup for each tadpole for individual rearing. Initially fill the container with ¼ of tadpole tea. Add some java moss to help with water quality and provide edible plant material. Also add an Indian almond leaf. We also recommend adding a few calcium granules to add mineral content to the water. Every few days add a pellet of food. Same day using a water pipette or dropper remove uneaten food. Food that spoils will foul the water and affect the mortality of the tadpole. Likewise remove any tadpole droppings that are visible. After the first week add another quarter cup of water to the container. Repeat till the cup is full. If the water appears murky or otherwise after one months’ time do a 1/3cup water change to help maintain water quality.

Tadpole development:
After several months the tadpole develop will first develop its back legs. Several weeks later it will develop its front legs. During this time its gills will slowly be replaced by functioning lungs. As the front legs become visible it is time to reduce the water level and provide easy access to land. Since it loses the ability to respirate from water it will need to breathe air. Tadpoles left too long in water may drown at this time. As the front legs are developed the tail will be absorbed. Loss of the tail will drastically affect its ability to swim. Deli cups used for rearing should be tilted to 45degrees to allow a tadpole to walk out of water easily when its ready. Feeding can be stopped at this time as the froglet will not readily eat as it will get nutrient value from tail absorption.

***More to come 1/2022

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